Saturday, July 31, 2010

Did You Know....

...that God is big?  Really big.  Infinitely big.

The whole universe cannot contain God.

Please read the rest here.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Visitation

As many know, the Visitation is my favorite mystery of the Rosary. I absolutely love to meditate upon what Mary and Elizabeth shared during that time.  Beyond the acknowledging of Jesus as God, beyond the out-pouring of Mary's heart and soul, we are able to see women nurturing each other in their roles as mothers. It is beautiful.

One of my favorite times to be around the married women I know is when they are pregnant or have just given birth. I love spending time with women in that state of motherhood. They are so completely given to their child. They sacrifice their very bodies, laying down every ounce of selfishness within them, to nurture the newest blessing.

What better time to nurture a woman than when she is giving so much of herself?


I was reminded again tonight of how essential our ministry is. I was reminded of how important, how significant each and every conversation should be (and is).

We are always, at every moment, dealing with eternal souls that will either live in the sheer bliss of the beatific vision or suffer in the eternal devastation of no God.

We are gifts. We've been given to one another - to lead, to guide, to direct.  Whether it is the child in my care, the student in my classroom, the teen in the youth group, the family member at home, or the friend on the phone, I am meant as a gift from God to that person. To lead, to guide, and to direct. Which way am I leading? Were does my direction send?

Am I a champion of salvation? Do I encourage others in their journey towards God, helping them to discover His will and His love?

I should be. In fact, this is a matter of such utter importance that I have no time not to be.

This is urgent.

This is salvation. It is life everlasting. It is THE journey, and we are meant to travel together.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mary and the Great Commission

I've always been something of an introvert.  I peacefully enjoy experiencing and feeling, holding things deep within me, and turning them over and over, again and again, with my mind and my heart.  I experience deeply and express only timidly.

I love when the Bible tells us that our Blessed Mother "pondered these things in her heart."  It's and image and feeling with which I readily identify.  I treasure that which I am able to ponder in my own heart.  Imagine how filled - to the brim and overflowing - Mary's heart must have been.  Imagine the glory of God that could radiate out from her heart.  It is a magnificently beautiful description upon which to meditate.

I do so love the moments in my life when the pondering of my own heart overflows into inexpressible joy.

But Jesus did not call us merely to experience God and hold Him within.  He called us to go out, to bring others to His Father through Him.  He promised to be with us always as we bring discipleship to the world. 

The question I've been asking myself is this: does my honest love of being an introvert, one who can ponder genuinely and experience with the depths of herself, keep me from my Great Commission calling?

Granted, I do not hold everything within.  My work in youth ministry, the depths of my friendships, and certainly many of these blog posts are nothing if not the overflowing result of my experience of the God of the Universe.  However, there are many, many times during which I shrink away from a conversation or a situation because it appears so overwhelmingly contrary to me.

So, what am I neglecting? Where am I holding back? How much further is God calling me to go? When does my natural, God-given tendency to hold precious things close to my heart - to seldom express - interfere with my call, as a Christian, to spread the Gospel in word and in deed?  How should I be more compelled in my actions to not withdraw into that quiet place, which is good and holy and truly of God, yet comfortable and easy and only one part of the life of a Christian witness?

How do I balance my inward heart and my outward mission?

In Summary

Today was a very good day!

I went to my classroom to begin the set-up process, which was good. Many thanks to Sarah for all of her help.

I'm very excited to get to know the other teachers. So far, everyone has been very friendly and quite fun!

I noticed that under-appreciate a close friend very much. Too much. I'm resolving now to change the way I approach his ideas.

My mom and I had were hosted for a game night by a wonderful mother-daughter duo. It was a great (granted late) ending to a very good day.

The only thing missing - and it's a BIG thing to have missing - is my personal prayer time. I'm still working out the physical space and the spiritual dedication. It needs to happen quickly before I settle into the routine of craziness that's headed my way!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Discerning Through the Noise

Tomorrow I go to my classroom and begin setting up. As this time approaches, I've become increasingly overwhelmed at the prospect of actually teaching. For a full year. Just me.

You know, after studying to be a teacher for 4 years, spending a semester student teaching, and dreaming about teaching my whole life, I've come to realize that it seems almost idiotic that school administrators and parents everywhere trust new teachers. I'm so young. I know so little. I have virtually no experience. And someone thought it would a good idea to give me a classroom and students all my own.

In the event that someone reading this is suddenly worried that they should contact my school and express deep concern about having me teach, I beg you to continue reading before you do so.

I was born for this. Whether teaching becomes a life-long career or merely something I did for a few years after college, I was made, in the image and likeness of God, to teach. I do not doubt that. He designed me with a heart that cares deeply, that loves learning, and that desires to bring Him glory in a classroom.

I've been given a mission. This is my calling.

As I sit here tonight, a myriad of suggestions and opinions runs through my head. I've read in numerous books, heard in countless class lectures, and been advised in conversation on how best to organize and run my classroom. For the authors of those books, the writers and delivers of those lectures, and the dear friends of those conversations, I am grateful.

However, I have come to see that those things cause me great anxiety. I can't remember enough. I can't choose between all of the great ideas. I can't imagine myself doing those things. I know that I'm going to walk into that school tomorrow and begin. When I imagine the other teachers stopping by, my heart beat increases and breath quickens. I have anxiety.

How can I explain my ideas to them?  If they question the way I am doing things, how can I defend my choices? After all, they have done this before; I have not.

But none of them are me. And I was born for this. I was created in the image and likeness of God to teach. He designed me with a heart for this.

While my decisions are far from infallible, they are the decisions of a person who, in surrender to the will of God, has said yes to this year and all that it may bring. God has given me grace for this. God will continue giving me grace for this.  There is a degree to which I have to know and trust myself.  Because there is a degree to which, in doing so, I come to better know and trust God.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Abraham and God

Note: At the time of publication, the background template on my blog is in need of repair. However, now is not a time that I'm interested in fixing it.

I loved the first reading at mass today. I listened to the words while imagining a scene at which I had to smile.  It was all tos familiar. Abraham asking God if He would in fact be subject to the demands of justice. Returning again and again with a new question - each time beginning by stating that he has no real right to ask anything of the Father, much less to question His ways.

How often my prayers begin the same way. "God, I know that I shouldn't ask but..." "I know it isn't for me to question but..." "God, I need the grace to trust you and have stronger faith but ...."

God's response in the reading was one of patience. In fact, it almost seemed as if He enjoyed this opportunity to teach and reassure Abraham of His justice, His love, and His mercy.

God wants us to know Him.

In the Gospel reading, the apostles (going through the Son to the Father, which is -as scripture tells us - the only way to know the Father) ask Jesus to teach them how to pray.  He teaches them to first give honor and glory to God and to accept God's will, not their own. From this we can learn that in approaching God in humility, in humble surrender, we can come to know Him better.

The Abraham in us all can be satisfied.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

In Black and White

Well everyone. Here it is.

I am officially (and publicly) committing to blogging everyday. I have never made this commitment before, largely because I know that it is in the little, day-to-day disciplines that I most struggle. In other words, I knew (and was content with the fact) that I would fail. However, my life needs to change. Within those little, day-to-day disciplines lies my deepest need for growth.

My life must change.

So tonight marks a new beginning, a bigger commitment. This entry is not glamorous; it does not offer the kind of life one would desire to mimic.  It's one stroke of goodness rests in the fact that it is real, an honest prayer murmured heavenward towards a God who deserves far more...

Dear Jesus,

O how I love Thee! And O how I have neglected You. My prayer life is not a deep and rich oasis of fulfillment and love. It exists only in spurts - small moments scattered infrequently throughout my day - when I am reminded of You and Your love. Those moments are not an intimate and joyous exchange. Rather, they are fleeting reminders that inspire feelings of guilt and sorrow, which are quickly brushed off.

That prayer was written a month ago. Not much has changed. Actually, in the interest remaining completely genuine, nothing has changed. At least not for the better.

Tonight marks a new beginning.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Trials of Old

Today I stumbled across an old notebook with several journal entries. As I read and remembered, I came across this entry.  It is so very true.  The me of the past is speaking to the me of the present. And I would do well to listen...

April 25, 2007

For the first time, I actually feel a desire to grow closer to God. It used to always be something I prayed about because I knew I should. Now, I really want it.

I really want to carve out and protect a place within me for God. I think the starting point is in the things about which I think. In order for God to be my focus, I need to give Him a clear path to my heart. I spend too much time fantasizing about my future. I find it enjoyable, and a lot of times, I'm imagining things I desire and think will make me happy. The truth is that true happiness lies in God's will for my life.

The thoughts that will make me truly happy are those that center around Him. If I fall asleep thinking about scripture and meditating on the grace and glory of God, I will be peaceful and my time will have been better spent. After all, God is more worthy of my attention than the decor of my dream home. Such invading thoughts crowd God and limit His space in my life.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Need Within The Quietest Me

The past few days I have felt called to take an honest look at my life. I'm not sure where I was standing nor what I was thinking when I first experienced this prompting, but it did not go away.  So, I pursued the matter. What I discovered as a result was not something good, certainly not something of which I am proud.

My reflections drew me to genuine realization that God is not all that He should be in my life. I took a look at my quietest moments. I examined the moments when I am really alone, when the world around me stops, when I'm not on the computer or reading or listening to music or planning my classroom. The moments when I'm truly still and quiet. What I discovered was that in those moments, I am not present to God. He is neither the object of my affections nor the topic of my thoughts.

In the depths of who I know myself to be, I have shut out God. When I am sad, when I am lonely, when I am tired, when I can sense with undeniable conviction that all is not right, He is not the one I cling to.

Instead I let my imagination run free. I dream of a life that is so very different from the one I'm currently living. I delight in the fantasy of self-scripted friendships, imaginary virtues, and utterly fake sources of happiness

In my quietest moments, I run to a world that cannot possibly draw me to God because it is a world that is in no way real.

In my not-so-quiet moments I claim to love God in a way that I don't. I reassure myself with the quick murmur of timeless and beautiful prayers, which my lips pray without my heart. I tell myself that my relationship with God has enough history to make up for this time - that in the overall summary of my journey the good is winning.

God doesn't want my overall summary.  He wants all of me, in every moment, to choose Him.

So then, changes must be made. I must fast. I must pray. I must reduce and control within myself those distractions that I allow to numb me to the Truth. God wants more.

The well-being of my soul demands that He have it now.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Things We Say (at the LifeTeen Leadership Conference)

Greg: Do remember watching movies on laser-disk?
Me: Laser-disk? Was that before VHS?
Russ: Was laser-disk before VHS?
Me: Sorry! I'm confused...
Russ: Clearly.

LifeTeen Leadership Conference

I had the great privilege of helping Benedictine host the 2010 LifeTeen Leadership Conference. It was my job to assist with sound equipment used in the Abbey Church and to make sure that the band and sound techs had everything they needed. This was fun on many, many levels.

First of all, it was exciting to be doing sound stuff "for real," working with professional musicians. Even though the majority of my sound work was limited to setting up and cleaning up, I did run sound for one of the masses. I was reminded of how odd it is to be a female sound tech. It's something I don't think of much on my own when I'm working, but the guys in the band and the sound guys noticed. They were surprised that I knew what an XLR cable was and could set up the whole Abbey system by myself. (Surprised in a genuine, non-sexist way. They never belittled me.)

Secondly, making sure the band had everything they needed included a road trip to Guitar Center in Kansas City, a stop at Starbucks, and a visit to the local bar for some legal and moderate socialization. How much fun is that? My job was literally to drive around and hang out with the holy, funny people.

The best part of the week was getting to know the guys I was there to serve. They are unique. They are funny. They are talented. Did I mention they are funny? It seems to never stop with them; I'm still laughing about some of things they did/said.

I was there to show them Benedictine hospitality.  I hope that I did justice to that call.  In the end, I thank God for them - for the gift they were to me that week, the gift they were to the conference, to LifeTeen, and for the gift that each of them (Josh, Colton, John, Grae, Matt, and Russ) are to the Catholic Church on earth. God is good, and they listen to Him well enough for His goodness to be seen through them.